how to use practice exams most efficiently

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how to use practice exams most efficiently

Postby swtlilsoni » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:24 am

I have my first exam on Tuesday. There are about 20 practice exams (they are not by my professor, they are other professors exams that were recommended to us) I could potentially do by then but I will not have enough time to do that many. I'm saving Sat to work on another class, so I have Fri, Sun, Mon to take practice exams for this class.

I heard that this isn't like the LSAT where its all about quantity, and that just doing a few but learning a lot from them helps more than banging out 20.

So how can use these few (I'll probably be able to do 2-3) to my advantage the most?
Right now, what I'm doing is writing brief answers for the questions, and then looking at the model answers, and rewriting my answers to be as good as the model answers. Then, I'm taking the basic structure of those rewritten answers (topic sentences, rule sentences, etc) and making a model answer outline (a prewrite) so I can use that as a template on the exam.

Any suggestions on how to make my practice exam study method better?

Also, I am a bit worried because I cannot concentrate for a full 3-4 hours on an exam. The first question or two I get, I am so into it and write it all out and go into all this analysis, but after that I just feel like "ahh I don't feel like writing this all out" and I just start making bullets instead of writing out all the analysis because I just don't feel like it anymore at that point. Any tips for having a longer endurance?
Last edited by swtlilsoni on Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:01 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: how to use practice exams most efficiently

Postby MinEMorris » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:40 am

It's unfortunate that you're jammed on time when you've been given so many practice tests. It's pretty rare that you're given that many with model answers.

Obviously, the most recent ones are going to be the most valuable indications of what the exam is going to be like. I'm going to assume you have one for each year.

Assuming 3 days of practice, I would spend the first day and a half issue spotting, outlining an answer, and comparing your outline to the model answer for say, the 2005-2009 exams. Pay special attention to how the model answers are written and how topics are introduced. I think you'll find one of the big differences in issue spotting/outlining an exam vs actually writing it is the content of what you say. It's easy for example to outline an answer to an exam and be like "oh yeah, here's a proximate cause problem." But then when it's time for you to actually fill that out, can you properly, quickly, and succinctly define proximate cause? Can you clearly spell out all of the relevant considerations so that you can use them? It really is similar to the difference of being able to do math in your head vs. being able to show your work, only much more severe since it may require you to memorize large sentences/paragraphs/lists.
A similar thing to take note of is simply how the answers are framed. It's easy to see a million issues in an exam and just whip out a verbal blowtorch to try and hit each one, but it's really ineffective for both your analysis and presentation. Try to formulate an effective way to break down your answers to questions. For example, if it's a long torts hypo, it might be helpful to break things down into who vs who, then what cause of action, then each elements in that cause of action. So your first heading might be like "PvJ" then "Negligence" then subheadings for each of the elements of negligence. Model answers are great at showing you ways you can break things down more simply and make your analysis smoother.

On the second half of the second day, I'd try taking your first full time test (i.e. the 2010 one). Compare your performance to the model answer, and try to address any problems you had in writing your answer. The next day go over the 2010 one again and review what you needed to fix, then take the 2011 exam and compare/review like you did with the 2010 one. That should take about half a day, then I'd take the rest of the day off and lightly review your outline or whatever.

As far as inspiration, it's definitely hard. The focus required to throw yourself into a four hour exam is exhausting, but there's no way around it. I'll share with you some wisdom I once saw on a runners forum where someone made a post asking about what people do when they're running in marathons and start to get sideaches or experience other pain. In my opinion, the best response was one line: "run in pain."

If that doesn't help, try remembering that all of the effort you put in this semester really won't matter if you bomb this exam. It is (probably) your entire grade. Furthermore, you're probably paying like 6 grand for this four hour opportunity.

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